205 Live – Wonderful idea, less than wonderful time slot

On Wednesday 2nd November, WWE announced that they will be launching a new show on 29th November 2016 focused entirely on the Cruiserweight Division. It’s name? 205 Live.

Firstly, the name is wonderful, and remarkably fresh for a WWE product. The “205” refers to the weight limit for all competitors on the show: 205lb. As a brand name, it’s very strong, and feels more modern than WWE’ other in-ring television productions.

The announcement of this show makes perfect sense. The Cruiserweight Classic was a very good show, and whilst it seemingly didn’t attract the interest of a huge portion of the WWE fanbase, it did reintroduce the division to WWE’s audience, which was then followed up by featuring them exclusively on WWE RAW as something of a special attraction for the Monday night show. Unfortunately, due to some bad creative, the division hasn’t got off to the best start on RAW, and there’s certainly been an aura of “toilet break time” when they come out for a match. It just hasn’t been presented as an important part of the show, and as such, no one has become invested in it. A crime, given Brian Kendrick has been doing some really good character work since the RAW debut.

There will be many people on social media saying “I told you so,” and they would be correct. Many people were sure that RAW would not get the cruiserweight division right, partly due to a perceived poor quality of writing on that show, but also based on past precedent in how the company handled the division the last time it was on the main roster. Less than two months into its run on RAW, the cruiserweight division has been labelled a flop by many fans who are too quick to turn things negative. It needs work, yes, but it hasn’t been a flop. Look at the success of the Cruiserweight Classic, and you will see how well this company can do a show for the cruiserweights.

In many ways, it’s the CWC’s quality that makes RAW’s lacklustre cruiserweight division even more baffling. Clearly, it’s down to one thing: the person running the show. The CWC was Triple H’s baby, but we all know who runs RAW. As a result, the latter needs to get the blame for making these wrestlers work a different style, and presenting them as an afterthought. You would assume Triple H will be taking over full booker duties for this new show, which will only be a good thing. This was his baby all along, and it’s only right that he should have ownership of it during these very important early months of its inception.

For this writer, there’s another reason why these wrestlers have failed on the main roster so far: visual presentation. On RAW, whenever the cruiserweights wrestle, they have different colour ropes, lights, etc, in an attempt to channel the aesthetic of the CWC. The thing is, it sticks out like a sore thumb, and each time it was really bothered me. The cruiserweights were meant to be on RAW, yet if you edited all of their segments together, you’d see no indication that they were taking place on RAW other than perhaps the commentary team. This weight division just never was truly apart of the RAW presentation and, as a result, I think it made it harder for the audience to become invested and attached.

205 Live has the potential to really give us something new for a WWE series. The quirky name has already been mentioned, and one has to assume that the sports-like presentation of the Cruiserweight Classic will be incorporated into this new show too, maybe even more than it was during that tournament. WWE have the benefit of knowing what worked and what didn’t during that series, which means 205 Live can launch with many of the growing pains already out of the way.

Visually, I’m hoping for a change in style. Whilst the colour of the belt obviously will not change, the use of purple for the ring, entrance, LED’s, etc, needs to be eliminated. It’s overdone now, and as a colour scheme generally just doesn’t work long term. I’d love to see the return of red, blue and white ropes, to be honest!

For the talent, this is a great announcement too. Whilst other WWE performers continue to fight for the chance to not only get into the main event of the two current live shows, but in some cases to actually just appear on TV, this group of 205lb [and under] athletes have now been given their own show and a handful are going to immediately be presented as main event talent. They’re incredibly lucky, let’s not pretend they aren’t, and Brian Kendrick has gone from being released six or seven years ago, to now being the face of a brand new WWE television series. Funny how things turn out, isn’t it?

The downside? 205 Live will air immediately after Smackdown Live, exclusively on the WWE Network. This has meant Talking Smack is being moved from its current time slot, to an hour later, making that show lose its immediate impact of following on straight from its parent show. There’s also the issue of whether it would then continue to be live, something that has made the show so damn raw and entertaining in its 3 months of airing so far. The WWE fanbase aren’t too happy about this news, and already it is putting a negative spin on 205 Live as a result. Quite honestly, I don’t understand why they’ve planned it out this way.

Firstly, Talking Smack is arguably one of WWE’s best shows currently, so why are they playing around with it? Secondly, surely 205 Live won’t be recorded after Smackdown Live? The live crowd surely won’t be into that. A part of me expects that they will film it in the hour before Smackdown Live goes on air, then air it two hours later, but then that makes the name of the new show slightly misleading.

Personally, I’d either air this before  Smackdown Live, or put it in Cruiserweight Classic‘s old slot on a Wednesday evening, following NXT. For sure, film it on Tuesday evenings if you have to, but if there’s one thing we should all learn from RAW these past three years, it’s that three hours of in-ring action really burns out out the live audience, and live television audience.

I fully expect there to be changes to its time slot within the first few weeks of it launching, so I’m not too concerned at this point. I’m more disheartened at the alterations to Talking Smack, which has been a great show since day one, and has really allowed people to get themselves over with the audience without getting mic time on the main show. Look at how hard The Miz has been pushed since he cut that promo on Daniel Bryan two months ago!

But otherwise, this will be a good show, and one that adds even more value to the WWE Network. WWE’s attempt to create their own indy scene takes another step towards completion…

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